In April 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil war, a terrible disaster befell the ancient city of Guernica. As reported by George Steer, the London Times journalist, three quarters of the city was razed to the ground as a result of the bombing by allied German Luftwaffe "Condor Legion" and the Italian Fascist “Aviazione Legionaria”.
At that moment Picasso was working on a mural for the Paris International Exhibition to be held in the summer of 1937, commissioned by the Spanish Republican government. Or rather not working, since he could not find his creative inspiration, hardly overwhelmed by any patriotic feeling; however learning of Guernica massacre, on 1 May 1937 the artist set off working fiercely. In 3 months he presented his Guernica to the world, a painting that would become iconic symbol of the war and its destructive power on innocent lives, as well as one of Picasso's most prominent works.
Guernica bombing was one of the first rehearsals of blitzkrieg strategy, later widely adopted by Nazis where they would attack defenceless civil population, burn down cities and kill harmless. Hitler was warmly welcomed by Generalissimo Franco to try out blitzkrieg in Guernica which resulted in almost total destruction of the town and killing of 250 to 1654 civilians, according to varying data. At the time of the raid, Guernica represented a focal strategic point for the Republican forces. It stood on the way of Nationalists to seizure of Bilbao, crucial for Franco’s army to bring the civil war to a conclusion in the north of Spain.
However Guernica was not just a strategic target - the city has always been regarded by Basques as their historical and cultural centre, symbol of their liberty and national identity, thus making its destruction even more intimidating and painful. The bombardment came on a market day; a majority of the town's men were away as they were fighting on behalf of the Republicans, so it was women and children who became the main target of the attack.
|Weeping woman, 1937|
|Woman with a dead child|
|Massacre in Korea, 1951|